Saturday, May 21, 2011

Pavlova: A Prequel To That Gourmet Blog....

Yeah.  That blog I promised ages ago.  I don't even know if  I can find that list of recipes anymore...but I'm gonna try!  Just for YOU!  Ok...pavlova...

So for those of you who don't know, Pavlova is an Australian (debatably a New Zealand) dessert.  It's one of my favorites.  Very simple.  Meringue  topped with whipped cream and fresh fruit, made absolutely spectacular with a splash of passion fruit. 

Simple dessert, tricky to make for those unskilled in the kitchen *raises hand*  In fact, online it gets a difficulty rating of 4 out of 5.  I taught John how to make it long ago, and he perfected making the meringue, so whenever we decided to have it, I let him make it.

We're having a fellowship brunch/surprise baby shower thingy at church tomorrow and I thought 'Hey!  This would be a great thing to bring!"  I wasn't thinking at the time that John would be too busy working and sleeping to make it for me. 

So it was up to me.  I have a recipe typed out in my recipe box, but I decided I'd better do some more research online to make sure I got this just right.  This is when I realized that it is a very sly and tricky thing to hand some one a recipe with simply the ingredients and oven temperatures.

In my research I found the basic ingredients and instructions.  I wasn't finding a lot that was far different.   Then I started seeing little things that are very important to preparing difficult dishes that most people leave out of their instructions.  Maybe because they assume it is common knowledge.  Never assume.

I found that the meringue would work best with room temperature eggs.  Good to know.  THAT wasn't listed on my recipe.  But before I had a chance to lay my eggs out, I found that the yolk separates from the white easier if it is cold.  Boy am I glad I found that.  Separating the yolk from the whites gives my anxiety attacks.  "Don't let ANY of the yolk get in the whites!" drills in my head as I carefully break each egg.

I also found that castor sugar is best for mixing into the egg whites.  Not good.  I've only ever used regular sugar.  Thank goodness for the cooks who spilled everything.  I was able to create my own by simply throwing the regular sugar into the food processor.  Fantastic!  Sugar powder flew everywhere when the lid came off.  That was fun.

The delicate part of this process is beating the egg whites stiff without over beating them.   I even watched a video to make SURE I could get this right.  Sure am glad I did, because guess what I learned?  Even if the sugar looks like it has completely dissolved into the meringue, you must take some meringue between your fingers and see if it feels gritty, to make sure.  Once again, NOT on my card. 

The hard part is over.  The meringue is in the oven and I've got my fingers crossed it bakes beautifully.    I might even make a second one tonight.  Lesson of the Day:  Never trust a recipe card.

However, I must admit.  Should anyone ask for the recipe tomorrow, this is all they're getting!  :)

  • 4 large egg whites at room temperature
  • 1 cup of Castor sugar, also known as "Berry sugar"
  • 1 tsp of white vinegar
  • 1/2 Tbsp of cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp of pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cups of whipping cream
  • Fresh fruit such as strawberries, raspberries, kiwi fruit, passionfruit, bananas, blueberries
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  1. Preheat the oven to 275F (140C) and place the rack in middle of the oven. Line a baking tray with foil and draw a 7 inch circle on the foil with the blunt edge of a knife (don't tear the foil). Set aside.
  2. In a clean, medium-sized metal bowl, beat the egg whites with a clean electric mixer on medium speed. Beat until the whites form soft peaks.
  3. Gently sprinkle the sugar into the egg whites, one teaspoon at a time. Don't just lump the sugar in the bowl and never stop beating the eggs until you finish the sugar. Your egg whites should now be glossy stiff peaks.
  4. Sprinkle the cornstarch and vinegar on the meringue and fold in gently with a plastic spatula. Add the vanilla and gently fold the mixture again.
  5. Now gently spread the meringue in the circle on the foil to make a circular base. Make sure the edges of the meringue are slightly higher then the center so you have a very slight well in the middle.
  6. Bake the meringue for about 1 hour and 15 minutes or until it goes a very pale, pinkish egg shell color.
  7. Turn the oven off and leave the door slightly ajar to let the meringue cool completely. As the meringue cools, it will crack slightly.
  8. Just before serving, take the meringue out of the oven and remove it gently from the foil and place on a plate.
  9. Whip the cream with the vanilla extract until it forms peaks. Prepare the fruit by washing and slicing.
  10. Gently spread the cream to the top of the meringue with a spatula and arrange the fruit on top.

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